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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/28/99

The Long Good Friday
1979 (1998) Handmade Films (Criterion)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

The Long Good Friday (Criterion) Film Ratings: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/C

Specs and Features

114 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.77:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 2 theatrical trailers (English and American), animated menu screens with music, scene access (21 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

The Long Good Friday is one of those movies that hardly anybody has seen or even heard of. I know I hadn't, and I regret I hadn't heard of it sooner. The film shows 48 hours in the life of a London crime lord named Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins as you have never seen him -- ever). Harold has higher aspirations that to simply run London with an iron fist. Harold is using his political power to develop London's dockyards into potential real estate for use in the 1988 Olympics. It's a deal worth billions, and on this special day, Good Friday by coincidence, he's expecting a friend from New York's Mafia (Eddie Constantine) to help with the initial money deals. It's a beautiful day for Harold, it's the first day of a very fruitful future. Well, it would be, except for a few things that are popping up.

It would seem that a group of men are killing his crew one by one. His number three guy gets stabbed at the pool, another one of his men is blown-up outside a church, and his favorite pub is blown to smithereens. This is slowly becoming a pain in Harold's ass -- and he's trying to figure all of it out, while also keeping his Mafia friends happy and out of the loop, his beautiful girlfriend (Helen Mirren) next to his side, and his huge temper controlled. It's not easy, and Harold looses it a couple of times. As it turns out, someone in his crew apparently screwed the IRA, and now they've come to London to make him pay. What the IRA doesn't know is, Harold isn't the type to lie down and let people walk all over him.

The Long Good Friday is a well structured crime drama, with some top-notch acting and some great twists and turns. The first time I ever heard of The Long Good Friday was when it came out on DVD, and I was glued to the TV screen, from beginning to super-cool end, as soon as the disc hit my player.

What makes the movie that much better, is this wonderful disc from The Criterion Collection. Although not packed with SE material, The Long Good Friday on DVD is a gem. The transfer is crystal-clear, and the soundtrack, even in its original mono, is a punch in the gut. I didn't see one problem with the transfer of this film anywhere. The only extras on the disc are trailers - one from the original English release, and the other for the American release of the film. Watch 'em back to back to see how different the marketing approaches are. It's pretty amazing. Since I don't know too much about the film, I would have liked more extras. But, as I usually insist with the Criterion Collection, simply getting such a hard-to-find flick in such quality, makes it worth it.

The Long Good Friday is a crime drama in the tradition of the old-time gangster movie all of us watched as a kid. Harold is a short, stocky killer in a nice suit, bashing men with a frown -- and if I were a criminal, I'd want to be just like him. Or maybe Bogey. Yeah, I'd be Bogey or Bob Hoskins. I guess the world can breath easier knowing I'm not made for a life of crime.

Todd Doogan
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